‘Tis Another Shopping Season

SANTAHere we are again.  We have had “Black Friday”, “Small Business Saturday” and now “Cyber Monday” as retailers urge us to do our Christmas shopping for the season.  Ready or not, it is here.  Last year Americans spent over $1 Trillion in retail purchases.

I saw a statistic this weekend that says 30% of consumers will use their credit cards for Christmas shopping.  I’m really surprised that it is not higher than that.  Just about when you pay off Christmas, it is time to charge those nasty credit cards up again.   The average U.S. household will spend about $1,536 on holiday shopping.

Where does it stop?

I’m no Scrooge here.  I love buying presents for people and I also love receiving too but I’m in the stage of life that I don’t need a gift to be valued or to value someone else.  Sometimes I wish we would do this gift thing a little differently.  I think we’ve all fallen for that “oh we aren’t doing gifts this year” thing.  I remember once a former family member had some kind of religious moment and announced that they weren’t doing Christmas but, instead, would do “just because” gifts throughout the year.  It sounded like a good idea but those “just because” times never came.

Growing up, we didn’t have much so I appreciated any gift I received.  I was never showered with gifts but I didn’t ever do without either.  I remember when the JCPenney or Sears Catalog arrived I would go through it page by page and try to find something I wanted that my parents could afford.  I would dog-ear those pages and hope that Mom could talk Dad into one of the more expensive gifts.  I might get it and I might not but I never showed my disappointment.

As I grew older I understood what the holiday stress is all about.  I got sucked into the Christmas gift arms race.  Fortunately over recent years I have scaled back and try to keep the shopping under control.

If you’re stressed about shopping, here are some good tips that can help:

  1. Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute – 62% of Americans buy their gifts the week before Christmas.  Try to get it done early if you can.  Shop online to avoid the stores if possible and get it done.
  2. When in Doubt, Buy Gift Cards – If you know of a place someone shops or a site such as iTUNES or Amazon, get them a gift card for it.  Of course, you can also give cash.  Someone once told me that he always loved getting cash because it was always the right size and right color.
  3. Do Your Shopping When Everyone Else Isn’t –  This is good one if you have to get out there to the stores.  The absolute worst time is on weekends or evenings after work.  Try picking a random day like Tuesday or Thursday during the week and do your store shopping then.

Here are some other interesting stats about holiday shopping:

  • Over 27 million real Christmas trees will be sold this year.
  • Nearly half of American’s don’t buy Christmas decorations.
  • 46% lie about liking a gift they receive.
  • 47% of women want jewelry for Christmas.
  • 32% of men want gift vouchers.
  • Americans spend an average of $123 on their spouses
  • 14% will sell some of their own possessions to fund their Christmas spending.

Whatever we do, let’s not stress about it.  Try to enjoy these season and know that the gift is in the relationship you have with people.

The No-Turkey Thanksgiving

turkeyPeople go crazy over turkey for their main course as part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Even before I became a vegetarian, I was never a fan of turkey.  I don’t care how you cooked it, it was gonna be dry and had to be soaked in something.  Growing up, I would fix my own mixture of ketchup and mustard for my sauce.  I never understood the craving for carving the turkey.  When I was eating meat, Honeybaked ham was my meat of choice.  Honestly, I have always been more of a fan of the sides than the meat anyway.  Who isn’t?  I always loved the stuffing/cornbread dressing, macaroni and cheese, green beans, etc.

When I met my wife, she introduced me to hashbrown casserole and now it is our traditional item for the holidays.  Now that she has become a vegan, we are going to “veganize” the ingredients for it.  The main challenge in the receipe is substituting the cream of mushroom soup but my wife has a plan.

Now if you are really into thinking outside of the box, they do have “tofurky” which is tofu but I’m not quite that far with it yet.  I know of one person who can truly fix tofu that I actually like but other than him, I am not going the tofu route.

If you are going to the grocery store today – good luck with that.  You’d better wear a helmet.  I have done that way too many times before and I always say I will never do it again but somehow there always seems to be that ONE item that is missing.  Most of the time it has been the pie shells for fudge pie and I have had to scramble because all the traditional items go quicker than bread and milk when there is a forecast of snow.  If you can avoid the grocery store I would recommend you to do that.  You won’t get the warm fuzzy of the holidays as they portray on the movies.

Speaking of movies….the Christmas movies have been playing non-stop BEFORE Halloween.  Can you believe it?  Even Halloween can’t contain the Christmas season now.  One of the radio stations I listen to started playing Christmas music this week.  No one waits until after Thanksgiving anymore.  Also, I see stores already having Black Friday sales before Black Friday.  Craziness out there!

I have been working on our outdoor Christmas lights for the past three weeks.  I haven’t turned them on yet until I have everything ready and my power grid figured out.  We are living in a new house this year so I am learning how to configure everything for this house while trying to restrain myself from putting on the production I am tempted to do.

I’m also hoping that I can do most of my Christmas shopping online this year.  I’m going to try my best but I know there are some items that I just have to venture into the stores to get.

There are also lots of events I want to do and lights that we will need to see but there is never enough time to do them all.  With Thanksgiving running late this year, there are less days to get it all in.  So many events are scheduled for next weekend already.  I don’t know what we can get done.

Yes, the season is upon us.  Enjoy your turkey, ham, chicken, tofu or whatever and buckle your seat belt (after you’ve unbuckled your belt after the tomorrow) and get ready for the Christmas holiday season to shift into high gear.


Some Folks Need That Cup Of Cheer

I have been out in the “hustle and bustle” of shopping over the past two days and I have to be honest with you – there a serious need for some cups of cheer out there. Now I don’t know what is supposed to be in that cup of cheer but I’m sure it has GOT to be something to calm people down because whatever folks are doing isn’t helping.

For those of you who either live in a cave or have already done all of your shopping online, there is a lot of selfish people out there. It is rare to find someone who thinks of others. I have seen this selfish behavior repeatedly over the past 48 hours of finishing up our Christmas shopping.

Where is this “Christmas spirit” everyone wants to talk about? Real life out there resembles nothing like a Hallmark movie.

I’m not exaggerating this. I have been looking for those cheery folks and I have been hard-pressed to find them. I have seen more self-centered people than I would have expected. Here are some examples:

  • The couple walking in the middle of the road in the shopping mall parking garage. They are walking arm-in-arm forcing traffic behind them to follow behind them.
  • The clerks at the register at Michaels who are discussing their paycheck and what they are doing to do with it instead of interacting with the customers in front of them.
  • People who decided to have a conversation on their smartphone in the middle of a busy toy aisle at Target.
  • People who push you out of their way or totally oblivious to your presence.
  • The lady driving in the wrong way at Starbucks to beat the line of traffic and then saying “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” when she is called out on it.
  • The driver who nearly plowed me over when I was in the crosswalk going to Books-A-Million.
  • The four employees of a store who were supposed to be helping customers as they entered the store but were carrying on their own private conversation instead of asking if customers needed any help.
  • The numerous people who are in a hurry or impatient to take thought of others around them.
  • I’m not trying to be a “negative Nellie” here, I’m just being honest. It can really make you wonder if people are all talk about Christmas cheer. It certainly isn’t that way in practice.
  • When I started my errands for Christmas shopping I honestly had to psych myself up before I went out. I told myself to be prepared to stand line, don’t be in a hurry and just take it slow. I knew what to expect. What was pretty overwhelming (and disappointing) was the complete selfishness of people. It was quite disturbing to witness the behaviors.
  • Why do we get so crazy? I don’t understand why things have gotten so out of control. Everybody seems to be out for themselves.
  • I wish we would all just calm down. We seem to have this ideal about Christmas and thinking everyone should be cheerful. My friend, this is not the reality of it. I have two days’ worth of being out there in the madness to verify that this isn’t the case. The cheerful has been overtaken by the selfish.
  • The buying frenzy during Christmas is just out-of-control. We go on the hunt for the perfect gift and totally ignore the true meaning of Christmas. We talk about the niceness of Christmas but we sure don’t show it. It’s good in a movie but an entirely different situation in the department stores. It really doesn’t take much effort to be nice to others. We are all in this together and if we are going to make this season work, we all have to do our part. I love the stories about people going in and paying off everyone’s layaway. That’s good but it would mean a lot more and go a lot further if we would just think of others and treat everyone with respect and not just people on our friends’ list.
  • Lessons in the Ribbon Aisle

    This weekend my wife and I went to Michael’s to get some ribbon for our Christmas decorations. Have you ever been to the ribbon aisle at Michael’s this time of year? You haven’t experienced claustrophobia quite like this. I thought hockey was a contact sport until I ventured into this aisle without a helmet or pads.

    This moment gave me a lot of insight of the Christmas season as it kicks off. You get a sense of some imaginary clocking ticking on everyone’s schedule. The push to get Christmas decorations done, all the activities to attend and buying presents for everyone. It has definitely shifted into another gear.

    As I helped my wife find the ribbon she needed, the aisle was crowded much like the floor of the Stock Market. If you think all ribbons are the same, you obviously haven’t had the joy of looking for one. There are different designs, colors and sizes of ribbons. You just don’t know.

    It is quite chaotic as people are stepping in front of you, store clerks restocking and tossing empty boxes on the floor at your feet. At one point my wife and I got separated. I looked over at here as I was trapped. I mouthed to her “helped me”. I was stuck in no man’s land with no place to move or ways of escape.

    The situation was made worse when I was bookended by shopping carts which entered the gauntlet. If the aisle is already crowded what would possess someone to force a shopping cart into the mix?

    After a successful mission on obtaining the necessary ribbons for our decorations and getting out of the store we both took a deep breath. We talked about the experience. My wife made the observation that people simply have tunnel vision. They aren’t being mean, they are simply oblivious to anyone else. She is right. There is no need to be upset or take it personally although it is very hard not to take some offense.

    So, the lessons here are that we have to summon up more patience than usual this time of year. Everyone is on a mission for their own world and not trying to be mean. The other lesson is to realize that it’s going to get a little tight. Most of us don’t like crowds but you can just about forget that during this time of the year even if you commit to do all of your shopping online.

    The holidays are a good test in patience. The hustle and bustle can put your skills to the test. We are all taking care of our own agendas and with that we are bound to forget others around us so we should be mindful to make allowances to cut some slack for others.

    it’s going to be a challenge isn’t it? I think we can get through this. I’m going to try to dig deep on the patience and not let the ticking clock of the holidays stress me out. Everything will get done. I think we all try to do too much. It’s okay to say no to a few things. Don’t do the same thing every year just because you always do them. Tradition is one thing but doing things simply because we call them “tradition” tends to take away the whole meaning we are doing them in the first place.

    Well, in spite of my experience in the ribbons aisle at Michael’s, I managed to get home safely and without being called for roughing, slashing or obstruction (hockey terms if you didn’t know). It’s all good and our trip was a success.

    Oh no, we got the wrong ribbons. Here we go again! Lord help us all…